Here is a ZENIT translation of a press conference given Saturday by Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne, archbishop of Lima, Peru.
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Q: How is the Church living this moment?
Cardinal Cipriani: In profound prayer and sorrow. At least for me, this unexpected resignation has overwhelmed me interiorly, it is a sorrow — frankly, because of the enormous affection we have for the Pope, the decision has astonished us and we accept it fully with much faith. But this is my state of mind; I don’t know how the rest will be.
Q: Cardinal, you have said that “society is sick.” Is the Vatican also sick and that’s why the Pope has said: “no individualisms, no conflicts, it’s time to unite the Church in the name of God”?
Cardinal Cipriani: We are members of society and we are not exempt from contagion of all that happens in today’s world: secularized, always seeking individual success, lying, intriguing; we don’t come from another galaxy. Hence when there is talk of conversion, it’s a very personal subject, each one must be converted, from the Pope to the last “cat,” of course I don’t wish to discard, to mistreat anyone, but we must all make a good examination of conscience.
Q: What do you expect from this election? What currents are in conflict? There is talk of the Orthodox, of the progressives …
Cardinal Cipriani: I’m not going to comment on that, because frankly, I don’t believe in those currents. I believe in the action of the Holy Spirit and hope that we cardinals will be able to be men who listen to God, otherwise, we are of no use at all.
Q: What is it like to enter the Sistine Chapel to vote for the Pope? What goes on inside (in the conclave)?
Cardinal Cipriani: I remember the last time, when Cardinal Ratzinger was elected, Pope Benedict XVI. There is great seriousness, in the sense that a series of oaths are taken that give one the sense of thinking that at that moment one is doing what God wants one to do. Therefore, there is much reflection, with great cordiality and fraternity, but at the same time we really feel the weight.
Q: What are the great challenges for the new pope, vis-à-vis the faith and the structure of the Church?
Cardinal Cipriani: It’s very difficult to answer this hastily. The Pope has been telling us — and I think it’s a challenge, not of this juncture but a present challenge in the Church — that the world doesn’t believe. There is too much self-sufficiency, as though God isn’t needed. One is not interested in Him, and I’m speaking of the powerful. I think they have structured society in a way that it is very difficult to live humanly, I’m not saying in a Christian way, I’m saying humanly. We must recover the human dimension: respect for life, respect for the family and respect for the truth. A plan has been put into place that is extremely contrary to the human being, despite the fact that there’s much talk of human rights. So, how can the Church respond to this? With her way of evangelizing. She doesn’t have structures of power, she has prayer, the election of her bishops, the teaching of the faith with examples, and she must have every baptized person (believe that) Christ is with him. When we look at today’s society, there seems to be a doubt: is Godin these persons?
Q: Is God shown in these men who say they represent Him?
Cardinal Cipriani: Indeed. I think that the Pope’s resignation is a very loud bell, and I hope that we cardinals will now be able to respond also to that God whom we ask to illuminate us so that we know what way we must go.
Q: What you said aside, do you believe that it is a physical and spiritual exhaustion of the Popethe Vatileaks scandal, the fact that he had to address the issues of pedophilia, all that has made him unable to go on any longer …
Cardinal Cipriani: Evidently. If it was a time of calm and tranquility, we would see in the Pope brilliant intellectual conditions, enormous kindness — and we see that day after day. If there is turbulence reflected in society, not just in the Curia, but, fundamentally, turbulence in any man who wishes to do something in life, either human or not human, it’s very hard for him to do it: to form a family, to lead a country, to harmonize a global situation. And for one who must proclaim the truth, the Pope, it must be a road full of turbulence in which he has come to a conclusion after much consideration. He has come to the conclusion: I don’t have the vigor to do it.
Q: America is called the “continent of hope,” because it is the one where there are most Catholics. Isn’t it time that the Church look elsewhere, because there has never been a Latin American pope.
Cardinal Cipriani: I think geography has nothing to do with it. The person must be found with the help of God, no matter where he comes from, he will be the one. I think that geographical or political situations won’t bein the conclave.
Q: Would you like to be Pope?
Cardinal Cipriani: No.
Cardinal Cipriani: I think it’s truly hard work which requires preparation. I think there are persons who are far more prepared.
Q: Reviewing the statistics, over the last six years the number of Catholics has fallen; they have joined different (Evangelical) Christian confessions. What is the main problem of the Church on questions of faith? Is it that she isn’t adapted to the times, or because people no longer trust her because of the issue of pedophilia? What is the great problem?
Cardinal Cipriani: I think the Pope has declared a Year of Faith, that is, the great problem is the crisis of faith. It’s not enough to talk, one must show what one believes; I think that coherence of life is lacking. If one says one believes, how does one show this? And so, sometimes we Catholics throw stones at one another, saying “you are to blame? Or “the other is to blame.” It’s time to raise our eyes and teach as we always did. The great missionary men who furthered the cause of the Church are saints. Who was Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul II, Saint Josemaria Escriva? Saints who offered their grain of sand, their example, they left a wake and then it’s up to each one to follow it or not. Therefore, there is need to illuminate more with consistency of life.
Q: And how can there be illumination from a Vatican that is one of the smallest and richest States, with great political influence, which with internal decrees has also covered up for years cases such as, for example, those of pedophilia?
Cardinal Cipriani: I don’t agree with what you say, but I do agree that God is everywhere, not in that little plot that they sometimes wish to show as a center of politics or intrigues. God is everywhere. The material reflection of a place is minimal. I think one’s faith must be shown in one’s daily. That is the God we believe in. There is a Holy Father, some bishops, but 99.9% of the Church is made up of baptized people who are in journalism, in sports, in culture. I think it’s the call to conversion that’s lacking daily.
Q: Canon Law states that anyone who is “baptized, male and celibate” can be named Pope. Why are cardinals chosen always?
Cardinal Cipriani: It’s a good question, but I don’t have the answer.
Q: And might it be that they elect someone who isn’t a cardinal?
Cardinal Cipriani: It’s possible.
Q: But it would be odd …
Cardinal Cipriani: It would be odd, as is the (Pope’s) resignation. But it can happen.
Q: In accord with modern times?
Cardinal Cipriani: I don’t know. Post-modern is better.
Q: Is there a cardinal that’s preferred over others? Mention has been made (in the press) of at least of a couple …
Cardinal Cipriani: I don’t go into this subject at all. But of course there are people who think one way and others another. That this should be taken to the press, lead to bets and intrigues, I don’t think is good. But I imagine there are people who think one way or another, but I’m not on that wavelength.
Thank you all very much and I ask you to pray.
Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne is 69. He was born in Lima and ordained a priest at age 33. He served as the archbishop of Ayacucho o Huamanga, Peru, before being appointed to Lima in 1999. He was made a cardinal in 2001.